This is another big release of early 2010 that I got very excited about and have taken a good long while to absorb before reviewing. Since being introduced to The National through their 2007 LP, Boxer, I've taken the time to hunt down and get my grubby paws on pretty much everything they've released. In short, I'm now something of a The National fanboy. That said, they are still not beyond reproach; when I say I fell in love with Boxer what I really mean is that, like most people, I fell in love with Fake Empire; easily the standout track not only from that album, but from the whole of The National's catalogue.
Having one or two tracks that dominate the rest of the record is becoming something of a trend with The National. As well as the Boxer/Fake Empire instance, there's Slipping Husband off 2003's Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, as well as both Abel and Mr. November from 2005's Alligator. That's not to say for an instant that the rest of their songs are bad, it's just that each album has one or two songs that stretch just that little bit further that the others. So it comes as quite a surprise to find that on High Violet no one particular track rears its head above the others; this sounds like one whole musical work.
This is certainly something that The National have been threatening for some time, and it could be said that, hit singles aside, their whole catalogue can be viewed as one gestalt entity. If you put all their Peter Katis produced records (everything from Sad Songs... onward) into a playlist and hit shuffle, only the ear of one familiar with The National's back-catalogue would be able to distinguish between one record and the next. This is a band that would have an absolutely killer "best of" record, but instead have several albums that are merely "very good" (and how many bands can say that?). Consistency is their very essence.
"And how does High Violet fit into their oeuvre?" I hear you cry. In short, very well, thank you. Whilst it doesn't have any of the band-defining hits that The National are wont to write every now and again, it is of a uniformly high quality. Fake Empire is the kind of feat that few manage more than once in their careers; you certainly won't find it's like here, but there are some cracking songs and the production is, as ever, sublime.